10 Break-Out Sessions

  • Time: 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

A Demographic Revolution: Young India Takes Charge (with All India Management Association)
Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, OYO Rooms
Pranjal Sharma (Topic Leader), Economic Analyst, Advisor and Author, India

India is undergoing its economic, technological and demographic transition simultaneously. An old country is becoming youthful and adventurous with the passage of time. Young Indians like OYO founder Ritesh Agarwal are quietly taking charge of Indian ethos by becoming icons of audacious aspirations and tangible proofs of its potential, spawning startups that are becoming most valuable and famous than many legacy companies. How can young revolutionaries find ways to carry the older generation of investors, regulators, workers and consumers with them and what can other economies and founders learn from India’s momentous transition?

Collaborative Advantage Across Generations: Reflecting on the SGS Experience (ISC Alumni)
Former Members of the International Students' Comittee
Christoph Loos (Topic Leader), Chief ­Executive ­Offi­cer, Hilti AG
Vivian Bernet (Topic Leader), Head of the Organising Committe, International Students' Comittee
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For over 50 years teams of student have volunteered to organise the St. Gallen Symposium. They have written countless invitations, met thousands of partners, and welcomed some of the most important personalities of their time on stage. Together with former members of the ISC we will reflect on the St. Gallen Symposium experience of cross-generational dialogue and collaboration, the lessons they have learned for their lives and on how the symposium has evolved. This session is organised together with ISC Alumni.

Collective Genius? Cultivating Creativity in the Arts and Beyond
Susan Goldsworthy, Affiliate Professor of Leadership, Communications and Organizational Change, IMD Business School
Gerry Hofstetter, Light Artist & Film Producer Hofstetter Marketing
Javiera Estrada, Artist
Tatjana Rupp (Topic Leader), Member of the International Students' Committee

As the need for innovation is growing, the routinisation of well-structured creative processes within organizations is key for concurrent value creation. Prof. Susan Goldsworthy of IMD, this year's St. Gallen Symposium artist Javiera Estrada and Light Artist Gerry Hofstetter will discuss the role of collaboration in the creative process. Together, and in conversation with the audience, they’ll explore the way collaboration can drive creativity in various organisational contexts, and, on the other hand, the role of introversion and lone contemplation in creating something new.

Connecting Business with Purpose: The Potential of Skills-Based Volunteering
Curdin Duschletta, Head Community Impact Switzerland & Foundations, UBS
Christopher Jarvis, Executive Director, RWInstitute
Prof. Amanda Shantz (Topic Leader), MBA Director and Professor of Management, University of St.Gallen

Many employee volunteering and giving programs are presented as an employee perk, similar to casual Fridays or a team-building event. But treating workplace giving and volunteering this way fails to fully capitalise on the great potential of such programs: to foster employee personal growth, and address key societal challenges. The panel will particularly explore the potential of skills-based volunteering, its benefits, and the unique challenges that arise when moving from merely transactional volunteering to something far more transformative.

Financing the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs
Patrick Zhong, Founding Managing Partner, M31 Capital
Makram Azar, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Full Circle Capital
Prof. Julia Binder (Topic Leader), Professor of Sustainable Innovation and Business Transformation, IMD Business School

The investment landscape over the next twenty years will be radically different from previous generations. While there appears to be greater access to capital, there also appears to be much more volatility and debt with no clear dominant financing mechanism. Entrepreneurs, VC, Private Equity, and banks will have to find new ways to work together to create growth and stimulate innovation. How can investors and entrepreneurs better collaborate and find mutually beneficial agreements that balance risk and return?

Hacking the Fashion & Luxury Watchmaking Industry towards more Sustainability (with Condé Nast College)
Martina Bonnier, Editor-In-Chief, Vogue Scandinavia
Raynald Aeschlimann, President and CEO, Omega S.A
Carmen Jenny, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, CLOTHESfriends AG
Johannes Reponen (Topic Leader), Director of Post-Graduate Programmes; Academic Affairs; Research & Knowledge Exchange, Condé Nast College

The fashion industry accounts for 10% of humanity’s annual carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. For long, the fashion and luxury watchmaking industry drove, together with the fashion media industry, unsustainable dynamics in the sector: generating more and more demand through an artificial cycle of new collections and seasonal trends. Businesses’ marketing, media as well as influencers thereby create a constant longing and demand for their products. How can designers, fashion houses and publishers exit this vicious cycle and, collaboratively, drive the transition towards more sustainable and ethical fashion and luxury watchmaking?

M100 Sanssouci Colloquium@St. Gallen: Media’s New Power: More Impact Through Collaborative Journalism
Mathias Müller von Blumencron, Journalist, Member of the Board, Tagesanzeiger and Advisory Board Member M100 Sanssouci Colloquium
Joanna Krawczyk, Chairwoman, Leading European Newspaper Alliance
Paul Radu, Investigative Journalist, Co-Founder OCCRP
Astrid Frohloff (Topic Leader), TV Presenter and Journalist, Advisory Board Member M100 Sanssouci Colloquium

Media diversity, freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Europe are currently under threat. Journalists and independent media companies are increasingly joining forces across borders to respond to such challenges as well as to be able to continue to offer independent quality journalism in the future. This session will identify learnings from new media partnerships such as the Leading European Newspaper Alliance (LENA) and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) to identify how media can most effectively work together.

Democratizing Access to the next Generation of Technology and Innovation: Communities and Radical Transformation
Gina Loften, Member of the Board of Trustees, TIAA
Luzius Meisser, Chairman, Bitcoin Suisse
Tycho Onnasch, General Manager, Trust Machines
Shuo Chen (Topic Leader), General Partner, IOVC

Technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship are key drivers of the modern economy and social mobility. Given their importance, we should strive to improve accessibility to tech, education and entrepreneurship across all backgrounds. Creating open and inclusive communities, especially with tech is important to accomplishing this goal, but it is easier said that done. Simultaneously, a third iteration of the internet – Web3 – has the potential to radically transform the internet of things and reduce barriers to access. How can these forces be effectively harnessed and directed for the benefit of all people and move the world forward?

Varieties of Tech Capitalism: Europe's Approach to Innovation and Regulation in a Global Context
Julian Teicke, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, wefox
Lisa-Marie Fassl, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Female Founders
Christoph Keese (Topic Leader), Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer, hy

Over the past decades, the tech sector, especially the internet of things, has become a central component of modern economies. Trying to catch up with the exponential pace of technological development, the US, China, and Europe are crafting rules of the game on digital markets. What are the emerging characteristic differences between regulatory regimes of digital markets, in the US, Europe and beyond, and how do they balance innovation and regulation? In light of strategic competition over tech dominance between the US and China, what are the opportunities and challenges for Europe in particular?

Changed for Good? Engaging with the New World of Work
Petra von Strombeck, Chief Executive Officer, New Work SE
Jean-Christophe Deslarzes, Chair of the Board, Adecco Group
Nat Ware, Founder & CEO Forte
Prof. Heike Bruch (Topic Leader), Director, Institute for Leadership and Human Resources Management, University of St. Gallen
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The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world of work forever. The fast and widespread adoption of remote work and an ever-increasing concern of employees with purpose and meaning on their job have intensified the war for talents. Reaching out to and concurrently engaging employees is key for businesses across sectors and regions. What learnings can be drawn from the pandemic as regards our approach to work? Has the world of work changed for the better? And what role does leadership culture and a new approach to hiring play going forward?

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Regulation and the Strangulation of Work

Years ago in Economics 101, I was taught that human beings are limited in the work that they can accomplish by their physical and mental capacities, their imperfect skills, and the increasing debilitation of advancing age. At the same time, human needs are boundless. Since there are not enough human and material resources on earth to satisfy every need, scarcity is inevitable.  For some it is experienced as poverty and the lack of tangible resources, for others as a state of pervasive dissatisfaction in the midst of material plenty. ‘Economic’ behaviour, in fact, may plausibly be portrayed as a natural reaction to scarcity. Without recourse to violence, we can alleviate scarcity and improve our condition mainly through labour and exchange. Division of labour allows us to focus on particular activities and unfold our abilities at the highest possible level. In this way, everyone gets an opportunity to better her condition.

According to neoclassical theory, people pursue their idea of betterment through individual choice, and they bear personal responsibility for the outcomes of their choice. Some satisfy their needs through productive activity, others by claiming goods and resources without making a corresponding effort – if society is organised as to allow for this choice. Attitudes to work vary, as do expectations about labour relations.

Ideal world, real world

In ideal never-never land, labour relations form in a free market. Through voluntary agreement, the employer and the employee seek the best possible arrangement for their respective sides. Access to labour markets, freedom of contract, and the mechanism of price formation secure the bargaining power of both sides. When and where in place, such mechanisms stimulate and reward mutually beneficial behaviour between the parties. Voluntary formats such as career counselling, employer ratings, and employee associations evolve to reduce the problem of information asymmetry. Both the employee and the employer can make erroneous or mutually harmful decisions. Both sides must learn from their mistakes.

In the real world, labour laws have been enacted to protect the employee from the employer, who is considered to have (and often does have) superior bargaining power. Would anybody argue that the British Factory Act of 1819 prohibiting child labour under nine years of age and limiting the working day to twelve hours was a bad idea? Throughout the 19th and into the 20th century, examples of vastly beneficial labour laws guaranteeing minimally acceptable working conditions abound.

Not surprisingly, specific traditions of labour market legislation have developed over time. Strict regulation à la française is plausibly considered an extension of the time-honoured Code Civil. This type of state-centred Code du Travail was taken up by many countries in Europe and passed along to ex-colonies around the world. On the other hand, Britain and its own ex-colonies including the United States inherited the English common law, where the judge and the jury were so important that an elaborate body of regulations was never really needed. Freedom of contract, not state intervention, thus became the norm—if we set the legal institution of slavery aside.

Empirical findings

Today, the extent of labour regulation varies considerably among countries. Almost everywhere, however, a limited number of general laws have been superseded by scores of specific regulations. These include the setting of minimum wages and overtime pay, paid parental leave, the establishment of minimum working conditions ranging from working hours and the modalities of worker participation through anti-discrimination down to ’employment protection’ in the broadest sense of the term, with stipulations regarding health, safety, and termination of contracts. Labour regulation also requires a monitoring mechanism, be it informally via trade unions or through official labour inspection.

Economists and social scientists have contributed to a vast body of literature that seeks to understand and address the performance and efficiency of labour market regulations. Based on evidence from OECD economies and elsewhere, they tell us that regulation designed to improve working conditions and wages does work to some extent. Among its conspicuous consequences are improved working conditions for those who have work, a more egalitarian distribution of wages, and a reduction in low-skilled jobs. A more unpleasant consequence is the pervasive displacement of less skilled workers whereby the old and the young, the less educated, the inexperienced, and the long-term unemployed have difficulty in meeting the stipulations required by labour regulation. Further indirect economic costs include higher taxes and a bigger welfare system, both of which factors put a fiscal burden on existing jobs.

By and large, labour market regulation thus leads to fewer jobs, with employment available across a narrower range of ages. In highly regulated economies, more people are excluded from the labour market, and they remain unemployed for longer. Those who are employed gain at the expense of those who are not. Against the backdrop of appalling youth unemployment between the end of compulsory education and the mid-twenties on one side, and the low employment rates for those aged 55 to 64 on the other, the French have an apt expression for their situation: “une seule génération travaille à la fois”—one single generation works at a time.

Shades of grey

Blaming unemployment on regulation alone would, of course, distort the picture. At the upper end of the age spectrum, the ejection of older workers from the regular work force is not only, but also a side-effect of technological change, which itself extends the life span and makes it more than ever imperative to increase income in the later stages of life. Many reasons account for the fact that barriers to desirable employment would be greatly reduced but certainly not gone even if all forms of governmental labour regulations were to vanish overnight. Given the choice, why hire a woman who might get pregnant and thus cost money even if there were no maternity leave to pay? Why hire someone whose health situation may be far inferior to that of a middle-class employee and thus lead to more illness-induced productivity loss? Why hire an immigrant whose vocabulary is still not broad enough even for everyday communication? The point is that even in comparatively unregulated labour markets, the young, the old, ethnic minorities, women, and the lower educated are at a distinct disadvantage.

All of which does not lower the cost of regulation. To analyse it through the lens of academic research is one thing. With a view to better understanding its full impact, we are well advised to leave the ivory tower. What we see is businesses producing reams of paperwork to demonstrate that they are in compliance with occupational safety and health guidelines, fair labour standards, immigration rules and a multitude other laws and regulations at national (or federal) and local level. As it stands, even the famously flexible U.S. labour market has quietly become much less so. As the Mercatus Center at George Mason University records, the sheer volume of federal regulations has more than tripled since 1970. When Richard Nixon was president, the federal register contained 35.4 million words. By 2016, that had expanded to 104.6 million words. 

Elsewhere, governments fare better. Countries that keep regulation in check show superior economic performance than countries that do the opposite. When it comes to indices such as real median salary, levels (and age distribution) of employment, youth unemployment in particular, a huge gap still separates France from Switzerland. In France, pervasive labour market regulation has always been part of an anti-market intellectual and legal inheritance rather than a response to dysfunctional markets. Even in Switzerland, however, there is no reason for complacency. There as elsewhere, what is happening in labour markets is just one manifestation of a larger trend that keeps increasing the complexity of what we call the rule of law—a secular trend that has brought forth a rather arcane system to the benefit of the politically connected who can afford to lobby in pursuit of their interests. For everyone else, the regulatory labyrinth increases costs, depresses economic vitality, and promotes cynicism.

Power, provident and mild

The underlying causes of this state of affairs have become the commonplace wisdom of political science and political economy. The study of public choice explains why ‘choice’ remains biased toward suboptimal outcomes. Given the incentive structures in the political game, better outcomes are unlikely. The median voter likes to believe that he will benefit from government intervention while the young, the unemployed and the less educated are too dispersed a constituency to make much difference. Selfless voters or suicidal politicians could, of course, produce better solutions. They seem to be a rather rare breed, however. Short of a wholesale change of hearts, only one solution suggests itself: change the rules, diminish the distributional elements in the political game. “Not an easy thing” when there are legal and socio-cultural path dependencies that would make the cost of fundamental change explode. “Mission impossible” given that the political game itself has become quintessentially distributional.

Never before in history have governments been more caring, more comprehensive, and more intrusive in their interventions than today. As public choice backed up by the threat of coercion is crowding out individual decision, our very ability to make decisions, to bear responsibility for the consequences, and to learn from our mistakes is diminishing. Over time, directives top down make the exercise of free agency less useful and less frequent. On the other hand, the modern welfare state appears as a tutelary power taking it upon itself alone to make us secure and to secure our gratifications, and to watch over our fate. Based on his own observation and intuition, here is how Alexis de Tocqueville depicts the contours of the regulatory state some 180 years ago.

“That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent, if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks on the contrary to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labours, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness: it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances – what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living? (…) I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described, might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom; and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.” (Democracy in America, Part II, Book Four)

What would the French aristocrat have to say today, in the face of non-agricultural societies and largely globalized economies? Would he acknowledge that balancing short-term customer preferences with longer-term considerations might be a good idea, that scientific discovery of health and environmental impacts of farming and manufacturing might call for state intervention? Tocqueville’s focus was, of course, elsewhere. 

That remarkable pretence of knowledge

If there is one aspect in the face of ever-increasing amounts of regulation that keeps amazing me, it is the seeming ease and indifference with which we—all of us as members of civil society—let it happen. Inadvertent surrender? Or are we simply keen believers in the “freedom from want” as propagated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941? Is it possible that modern government can do away with Economics 101?

Spoiled as we have become on the receiving end of the nanny state, we seem to have lost the ability to accept, let alone appreciate scarcity as an inescapable feature of our lives. Since the everyday experience of the thing causes discomfort, we heartily welcome what we are told: “there is a remedy.” In public and political discourse, imperfections are thus being framed as the outcome of inappropriate human activity or dysfunctional institutions. A given distribution of goods is considered “unfair.” Markets are seen to be at odds with moral values and principles such as “social justice.” We need regulation.

Such is the ideology of the regulatory state, put in a nutshell: proper regulation can be done, imperfections dealt with, the requisite ‘higher knowledge’ (technē as in technocracy) is there. So long as scarcity is framed as something that can be overcome through adequate doses of social engineering, all public officials who represent people will focus on protecting their respective constituencies against related imperfections. The same goes for university professors, labour judges and regulators whose work is somehow incentivised through a narrative thus framed. All of them mean well.

It will be interesting (if possibly disquieting) to see how the ubiquitous application of digital technology will challenge, modify, and complement existing techniques of the regulatory state. The breath-taking speed at which the original version of a secure and low-cost expansion of personal communication and knowledge (developed, nota bene, in government-sponsored laboratories) has been compromised by unparalleled extremes of commercialization seems itself to call for regulation. While some monetize personal information garnered from users, others abuse digital media for fraudulent operations. To what extent shall we need the state and its power of coercion in regulating the digital space? And of equal import, quis custodiet custodes? Beyond being customers, we are citizens. When browsing the net, we turn into providers of data who can be profiled in turn. Feedback enables control. It does not take Tocqueville’s genius to sense that the very modulations of social and political governance are about to change in truly fundamental ways. Shall we stand by with ease and indifference?

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